Nov 02, 2017

CFP Poll Week 1: What It Means For The Citrus Bowl

After nine weeks of action on the field, the College Football Playoff released its first rankings of the 2017-18 season Tuesday, giving Florida Citrus Sports its best chance yet to project which teams could be visiting Orlando for the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 at Camping World Stadium.

Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 3 and slotted for a CFP semifinal game, but a loss by the Irish down the stretch could have a drastic effect on the standings and the Citrus Bowl’s selection.

With so much of the season left to play and so many conference races still up in the air, it’s nearly impossible to guess exactly how things might shake out come December, but here’s how things are looking as November gets underway:

Based on the Oct. 31 standings, No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Clemson would meet in the Sugar Bowl — the most regionally appropriate game for the Bulldogs and Tigers of the two CFP semifinals. That would leave Alabama and Notre Dame to play in the other semifinal at the Rose Bowl in a rematch of the 2013 BCS Championship Game.

With the Rose and Sugar Bowls both hosting semifinals, most of the New Year’s Six conference tie-ins would no longer need to be satisfied, however No. 10 Miami — the highest-ranked non-CFP team from the ACC — would be assigned to the Orange Bowl due to the game’s contract with the conference. The Hurricanes’ projected opponent in the game would be No. 6 Ohio State, currently the highest-ranked non-CFP team among the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame.

From there, one could surmise that No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 7 Penn State would meet in the Cotton Bowl, leaving Pac-12 champ Washington the only remaining conference champion without a New Year’s Six bowl destination. The logical destination for the No. 12 Huskies based on proximity would be the Fiesta Bowl, where they could meet No. 8 TCU.

That would leave No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 18 UCF (the highest-ranked Group of 5 team) in the Peach Bowl, although it’s also possible UCF ends up in the Fiesta Bowl, with either TCU or Washington headed to Atlanta.

Virginia Tech appeared in last year’s ACC Championship at Camping World Stadium. Could a return trip to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl be a possibility for the Hokies this year?

Now, what does that all mean for the Citrus Bowl? Well, because a Big Ten team would be playing in a non-semifinal Orange Bowl, the Citrus Bowl would host the highest-ranked non-CFP selection from the ACC, which, based on these particular standings, would be No. 13 Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ opponent, based on the current rankings, would be No. 14 Auburn, the highest-ranked SEC team outside the CFP series.

Of course, there are plenty of ways this picture could — and almost certainly will — be turned on its head over the next five weeks.

In one of countless hypothetical examples, a Notre Dame loss could drop the Irish out of the Rose Bowl, potentially making them available for the Orange Bowl, depending on how far they fall in the rankings. If Notre Dame played in Miami, the Orange Bowl would no longer be pulling a Big Ten team, which means a Big Ten team would go to the Citrus Bowl.

And there are countless other similar chain-reaction situations that could see teams move up or down significantly down the stretch depending on how games play out.

Additionally, the SEC race is far from decided, and each of the conference’s top teams will be challenged down the stretch, starting with Alabama-LSU and Georgia-South Carolina this weekend. And that’s to say nothing of the Big Ten, SEC and ACC championship games to cap off the season.

Long story short, we’ve still got a long way to go, but Auburn-Virginia Tech is looking like a realistic option — for now.

The next round of CFP rankings will be released on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. For a look at what members of the media are currently projecting for the Citrus Bowl, check out our weekly projections roundup.

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